Developing strategies to end hunger
 

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A Climate to End Hunger: Agriculture Is Part of the Problem and the Solution

Hunger Report Monday 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sectors

Editor’s note: Welcome to Bread for the World Institute’s blog series on A Climate to End Hunger. The other day when I realized that Earth Day was approaching, I winced at my conflation of Earth Day with climate change. But it makes sense. Climate change is the biggest threat yet to Earth’s environment – and increasingly widespread hunger is one of its most tragic potential consequences. In this series, we reflect on how we can help prevent such a catastrophe. 

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III published the third and final contribution, Mitigation of Climate Change, to the organization’s forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report. Working Group III, made up of hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, was tasked with surveying thousands of the latest peer-reviewed studies to gauge the current status of climate change, the hazards it poses to humanity, and, of course, what people can do to prevent and/or cope with those hazards. The Guardian’s Leo Hickman summed up the group’s findings best – and at Tweetable length:

Climate change is real. We are to blame. It will get worse if we fail to act. The solutions are available and affordable. But time is short.

The group’s findings support the warning – stronger than ever – of the threat posed by climate change not only to hungry and poor people, but to the entire global economy. Climate change is increasingly straining global food systems. The message to policymakers is that if all countries, rich and poor alike, do not act quickly and cooperatively, the hard-won global progress against hunger and extreme poverty of the past few decades could be rapidly undone.

More specifically, climate change threatens global food security by causing declining crop yields; disruptions in food access, utilization, and price stability; and significantly reduced access to water, food security, and agricultural incomes in rural communities.

As the report’s chart (above) shows, about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the “Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use” (AFOLU) sector — more than by the transport and building sectors combined. Sustainable agricultural practices will be crucial to reducing AFOLU emissions while still producing enough food for the growing population. Promising mitigation options include afforestation and sustainable forest management, improved cropland management, and restoration of organic soils.

At its core, responding effectively to climate change means building resilience in communities where people have always struggled to produce enough food. It demands strong and organized political leadership, infrastructure, and resources at all levels — local, regional, national, and global. Strengthening local capacity to create and implement informed, effective adaptation strategies is vital to building resilience.

Chapter 5 of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, examines how agriculture has been part of the climate change problem, and more importantly, how it must be part of the solution. Visit www.hungerreport.org to read more.   Derek Schwabe

Data to End Hunger: Specialized Food Aid Products

Traditionally, food aid from the United States meant bagged cereals and pulses (such as dried peas and lentils), flour, a blended corn-soy product designed to be mixed with water to make porridge or gruel, or a combination of these. Purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the American Midwest, it was sent by rail or barge to U.S. ports and then continued its long journey by ship. Finally, food aid arrived in the places where it was needed, where it was distributed through emergency and development programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). For decades, this was the personification of the bounty of U.S. farmers and the generosity of the U.S. public toward hungry and vulnerable people.

Since the beginning of the main U.S. food aid program, Food for Peace, developments in food science and nutrition have taught us a lot about the effectiveness of food aid commodities. For example, while general distribution food aidBlog graph 040914such as that delivered in refugee camps in the Horn of Africa, provides the calories necessary to avert starvation, it is inadequate as a person’s sole source of sustenance for long periods of time. Studies by Tufts University and the Government Accountability Office found that there is a risk of malnutrition because the commodities are deficient in essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This is a significant problem because in recent years, more than 96 percent of all food aid recipient countries have received food aid for four or more years.

Also thanks to advances in food and nutrition science, new food aid products have been developed and are increasingly being used in programs to treat both moderate and severe malnutrition. Food aid products began to be targeted to the specific groups of people for whom they would be most effective. For example, micronutrient-fortified formulations of Corn Soy Blend and Wheat Soy Blend were made (from a blend of partially cooked cornmeal, soy flour, iodized salt, and vegetable oil). Other formulations that have been tested contain soy- or milk-based (whey) proteins, which have been shown to help the body absorb nutrients. This is most critical to malnourished children younger than 2 -- those in the 1,000 Days window of opportunity.

Other new types of food aid belong to the category “lipid-based nutritional supplements” (LNS). One of the first therapeutic LNS foods is a peanut-based product with a name that’s now widely recognized – Plumpy’nut. This and related products marketed by the Nutriset company show tremendous success in helping children with Severe Acute Malnutrition.

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Specialized food products like these are used with mothers and children in the highlands of Guatemala

A study in Niger found that giving Plumpy’nut to children younger than 2 with Severe Acute Malnutrition reduced mortality by about 50 percent – a result heralded as a significant change in the way food aid is used.

Additional LNS products have been developed by U.S.-based companies.  Also, there have been pilot projects that base the therapeutic foods on locally-grown chickpeas, peanuts, cashews, sesame, corn, and soybeans. Using local crops will significantly reduce the cost, which can be a barrier to increasing the use of LNS products in donor-funded programs.

In addition to LNS-based foods, Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF) and Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) products, micronutrient-fortified/enriched milled flours and blends, and meal replacement emergency foods have all been developed and are now in use. Meal replacement products include dairy and legume protein pastes as well as grain-based protein bars. 

Increased use of specialized products is an integral part of the food aid reforms in the recently passed U.S. farm bill. It is noteworthy that the farm bill contains specific language instructing USAID to explore ways in which these products can be stockpiled in food aid pre-positioning sites around the world.  Pre-positioning can make them immediately available in emergencies where children are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition. Better targeting of specialized foods to the most vulnerable populations will save lives.

Other food aid reforms currently under way include increasing the percentage of local and regional purchase of food, and allowing additional flexibility to provide help in the form of food vouchers or cash where appropriate, as opposed to shipping bagged food aid products from the United States. These reforms will reduce program costs and ultimately feed millions more people with the same resources.

This is critical, because according to the Lancet medical journal, malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of all child deaths, more than 3 million children per year. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that one in four children in the world is stunted (below the median height for age of a reference population), a condition related to chronic malnutrition with life-long social, health, education and economic consequences.

Research and data have enabled the development of specialized therapeutic food aid products.  Increasing the use of all forms and formulations of such products is our best weapon against acute malnutrition, particularly among severely malnourished children whose lives are at stake. This is one battle in the war against hunger that we can win.

Scott Bleggi

Humane Deportation Policy

Removals Rise through Three Administrations

Deportations have risen steadily through the last three U.S. presidencies. Under increased pressure, President Obama has pledged to review his administration's deporation policy.

Immigration advocates are continuing to take a “dual track” when it comes to pressuring the federal government on immigration reform, targeting both President Obama and House Republicans.

This week House Democrats introduced a discharge petition designed to force Speaker John Boehner to act on reform. As was predicted by both Democrats and Republicans, the measure failed, but it did draw more attention to the stalemate in the House.

While Congress remains mired, there may be more reason for optimism when it comes to administrative changes that improve U.S. policies on the deportation of unauthorized immigrants. The White House has been facing increasing grassroots pressure to stop deportations, and this month President Obama announced that the administration would review its deportation policy to see if it was possible to make it more humane within the bounds of the law.  

President Obama is working with both members of Congress and activists. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been directed to review his agency's approach. Reports from the media indicate there are some very sensible and middle-of-the-road solutions under consideration. One of them is to “ease or stop deportations of foreigners who have no criminal convictions other than immigration violations.” According to this report, deportation resources would be shifted to target people who have been charged with or convicted of crimes and may pose a threat to public safety.

Such a change may help ease the outrage of grassroots immigration activists, who point out that the Obama administration has already deported about 2 million unauthorized immigrants. Many of them faced no criminal charges and had been living in a family and working. The proposal would thus also help stem the separation of immigrant families.  Andrew Wainer

What Could You Do With a Billion Dollar Bracket Prize?

Basketball and hoop at sunset
photo credit: Stuart Seeger


It’s playoff time in college basketball, and there’s a billion-dollar prize for picking a perfect men’s* bracket. Since Bread for the World is hopeful even in the face of overwhelming odds, you can follow along with our staff picks here.

What if the really, really unlikely happens: someone picks a perfect bracket, and he or she decides to use the whole prize to help end hunger? Let’s assume the lucky winner takes the $500 million lump-sum award instead of the 40-year annuity and eliminates any tax burden by donating the entire amount to nonprofits or the U.S. Treasury (yes, contributions to federal, state, or local governments are deductible).

It’s going to take a sustained global effort to end hunger and poverty. No one—not even someone who picks a perfect bracket—can do that alone. But it would be a really good start.

* We thought it was important to offer information about the women’s tournament as well—especially considering that Bread for the World Institute’s upcoming hunger report focuses on women’s empowerment and March is International Women’s Month.  Stacy Cloyd

What Does Stigma Have to do with Hunger? Meet Dawn

Hunger Report Monday 2

Dawn shares her story of facing social stigmas. (Video credit: Feeding America)

For millions of Americans like Dawn, the idea of accepting help--even when it's badly needed--is daunting and humiliating. While she was unemployed, Dawn received SNAP (food stamps) that helped keep her and her son fed and healthy. The safety net was there for her family when a job just wasn't. Getting by on SNAP was hard enough (the average benefit is less than $1.50 per meal), but being socially ostracized for it, she says, was the most stressful. Scrutinizing stares and rude comments became a usual part of her weekly grocery trip, and she found herself shopping late at night just to avoid ridicule. 

Dawn never forgot the undue shame that she was made to endure during that rough time--and the millions of others who still face it today. Like most Americans, she has a firm sense of self-reliance, and considers it a strength. But she knows that it can also feed that oppressive stigma. Today, she's a vocal advocate for the millions of Americans who bear a degenerating burden of guilt for circumstances they can't control.

We have many tools at our disposal (like the new SNAP EBT card system) that can make it easier for people to anonymously accept help when they need it, but as Dawn's story shows, they will not be enough. Combatting stigmas will start with challenging hurtful attitudes and assumptions about what it means to need help. 

Hunger is a shared public health problem--not a punishment for the few--and the more we talk about it this way, the sooner we may be able to reduce the stigma that makes it a much harder problem to solve than it should be.

Check out hungerreport.org to read Dawn's full story--complete with photos and graphics--and to download the complete 2014 Hunger Report and read more about how social stigmas perpetuate hunger in America.  Derek Schwabe

Starting the Chat on Women's Empowerment

Hunger Report Monday 2

This past Friday — the eve of International Women’s Day — Bread for the World and the Institute hosted a Twitter chat with senior policy analyst Faustine Wabwire on how women’s empowerment can help end hunger. Research continues to show that, in nations and communities all over the world, gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. In fact, 55% of the reduction in hunger from 1970-1995 can be attributed to improvements in the status of women.

Senior Hunger Report editor Todd Post, Faustine, and other members of the Institute are currently at work developing the 2015 Hunger Report, to be released in November 2014, which will propose policy changes to improve women’s economic, political, and social status. International Women’s Day offered a prime opportunity to expand the discussion to the Twitter-sphere, resulting in a fruitful dialogue that  touched on the varied dimensions of women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and gave us a chance to hear new perspectives.

Here’s a brief recap of where the chat went, with a smattering of sample tweets:

We had a lot of help getting the word out.  

We started by asking "Why women's empowerment?"

We examined the role of women in agriculture and the food system.

We looked back to the role of the Millennium Development Goals, and ahead to the threat of climate change. 

We pondered where hunger and poverty rates correspond — and where they don't. 

We acknowledged the influence of culture.

We heard from health experts on the role of good nutrition and access to health care. 

We shared resources with each other. 

We talked jobs and wages as next steps toward gender parity in the United States. 

We had many to thank for a rich online discussion. 

Derek Schwabe

Join us for a Twitter Chat on Women's Empowerment to End Hunger

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Gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. Women produce well over half of the global food supply and are more likely to spend additional income on food. We won’t be able to end extreme poverty by 2030 without tackling gender inequality around the world. This is why women’s empowerment will be the focus of Bread for the World Institute’s (@breadinstitute) upcoming 2015 Hunger Report, currently being developed.

Join Bread for the World Institute Senior Policy Analyst Faustine Wabwire (@fwabwire) for a Twitter chat on the linkages between hunger, poverty, and women’s empowerment this Friday, March 7—the eve of International Women's Day. We want to hear your recommendations and stories to help answer the question:

What can we absolutely not leave out of the 2015 Hunger Report on women's economic empowerment to end hunger?

Be sure to include the hashtag #IWD2014 in your tweets. Here are the details:

What: Twitter Chat on Women’s Empowerment to end Hunger and Poverty

When: Friday, March 7, 2014

Time: 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. EST

Chat Hashtag: #IWD2014

Primary Twitter Accounts: 

@Fwabwire 

@breadinstitute

@bread4theworld

@asmalateef (Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute)

Faustine and the Institute will start the conversation with a few questions—but we hope to do a lot of listening. We look forward to hearing from you!

Meet Nadine: Social Exclusion and Hunger

Hunger Report Monday 2 Nadine

Nadine poses for a portrait. Click this image to view a video of Nadine's story. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Nadine is a registered nurse, low-vision therapist, and former school teacher in Philadelphia who lost her job as a health service administrator when a debilitating medical condition struck without warning. Left with no job, drained savings, and limited assistance, the safety net is the only thing keeping Nadine from homelessness.

Food insecurity in the United States is much more common among members of society who have faced social exclusion, either due to a vulnerability like age or disability, or to discrimination by race, gender, or some other characteristic (see the chart below). Unfortunately Nadine has endured exclusion for all of these reasons.

As an African American woman, even in her healthiest years, Nadine had to hurdle serious barriers in order to attain the educational and employment opportunities that more men, and more women of other racial groups, enjoyed—opportunities that helped provide her with a steady, well paying job. But now, as a disabled senior, her physical inability to work, has left her teatering on the edge of poverty, homelessness, and food insecuirty.

Food Insecurity, Nadine

African American females are least likely to earn a high school or college degree, yet most vulnerable to fatal health conditions like hypertension and various forms of cancer. African American women also have higher rates of unemployment than white women and continue to have lower amounts of weekly usual earnings and median wealth compared to their male counterparts and white women. In 2010, African American women earned, on average, 64 cents for every one dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic male. White women made 78.1 cents to the same dollar.

We can get close to ending hunger in America by making improvements in economic policies as regularly discussed on Institute Notes. But we cannot end hunger altogether without confronting knottier social issues that tie down people like Nadine. Ending hunger requires ending discrimination so that all people can have access to the educational and job opportunities that allow an individual to earn enough money to keep her family out of poverty. But it also requires a strong federal safety safety net--made up of programs like Social Security, SNAP (food stamps) and disability insurance--so that physical inability to work does not remain a condemnation to chronic homelessness and hunger. 

Visit hungerreport.org to view photos and interactive data from Nadine's story and to read more about the role that a strong safety net plays in our four-part plan to end hunger in America.Derek Schwabe

Pakistan Joins the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement

This blog was submitted by Pirbhu Satyani, who is an intern in Bread for the World Institute.   He has a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship through American University and comes from Tharparkar/Sindh, Pakistan.    

  Pirbhu pic

Pakistan, a middle-income country, has taken the significant step of becoming the 46th member country of the SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) Movement. An important role of SUN member countries is to collaborate with each other in making the issue of nutrition a top priority. SUN helps member countries design nutrition-focused policies and use resources efficiently to achieve improved nutrition, especially among women and children.  

In my country, malnutrition is a serious issue with many causes, including ineffective government policies, a poor health infrastructure system, food insecurity, and widespread poverty. In terms of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), Pakistan is still far behind in reducing its under-5 child mortality rate. Every year, 800,000 children die in Pakistan -- 35 percent due to malnutrition. The risk of death is nine times higher for a child suffering from malnutrition than for a child with a balanced diet. PS blog 1 Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey in 2011 indicated that 58.1 percent of households were food insecure. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working on small projects, but there is no comprehensive and focused long-term plan or strategy to address the situation, to scale up successful programs with a goal of reducing the child mortality rate. The provincial governments (there are four) have been trying to make changes in policies and practices to improve the health and nutrition system since the 2010 introduction of the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, which empowered provinces to take action.  

Malnutrition arises when people have little access to food and limited health services. In Pakistan, the majority of the population (around 63 percent) lives in rural areas, where health services are very limited. The main livelihood of most people is agriculture – even though it would seem that being a farmer and being malnourished contradict each other. In Pakistan it is lack of access to a diversified diet that causes malnutrition. PS blog2 An unprecedented natural disaster (flood) in 2010-2011 made poor communities even more vulnerable. An estimated 20 million people were displaced, millions of acres of land were damaged, and there was widespread damage to crops, mostly wheat and rice. Farmers were unable to feed their families and malnutrition increased rapidly.   

Malnutrition in Pakistan can only be addressed through collaborative efforts -- by engaging the international donor community and by initiating long–term, sustainable programs such as food security, women’s empowerment, agricultural safety nets, early childhood development programs, and quality health service at the grassroots level (meaning reaching to rural communities). Pakistan hopes that best practices and effective government policies around the world can be shared with and imitated in Pakistan as it seeks ways to scale up successful nutrition actions via the platform the SUN movement has provided.

The commitment of Pakistan’s government to join the SUN movement may open more opportunities for technical support and may mobilize resources by engaging international donors to invest more in improving policies and strategies in the health and agriculture sectors, and in building the capacity of human resources and systems. If that is achieved, effective implementation of services can be ensured at all levels to improve health and nutrition for all in my country.

Scott Bleggi

Meet Ofelio: Small Businesses in Low-income Communities

Ofelio Intro Photo

Ofelio prepares Tamales in his kitchen. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

Ofelio left his home in rural Mexico almost 30 years ago with no family in the United States, no knowledge of English, but a strong work ethic and determination to find a better life. He hasn't been able to return to Mexico for more than 20 years, even though his parents, both in their 80s, would like to see him for what would likely be the last time. He still wonders if it was a mistake to come to the United States. Like most immigrants, he wanted the things for his children that are harder to come by in much of Latin America: a secure home, plentiful food, and an education to prepare them for success. He did find some of these things in the United States, but it cost him dearly in health and well-being.

Ofelio’s first job in the United States was washing dishes in a New York City restaurant at a sub-minimum wage. To keep his job he was expected to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day with no sick days, vacation time, or promise of job security. His employers often asked him to work extra hours without pay. He knew that if he objected they wouldn’t think twice about replacing him. Ten years of life on poverty level wages drove Ofelio into a state of deep depression that he says almost killed him.

Businesses Like Ofelio's Have a Hard Time Finding Banks that Will Invest in Them

Ofelio started making tamales out of his home nine years ago for people at his largely Latino church. After a few months, he was getting orders on a regular basis, and the prospect of making a living from tamales grew as he built up a client base in the city’s Latino community. With a lot of hard work and the help of a local nonprofit, Ofelio was able to obtain all of the necessary permits and certifications to legitimize his catering business. He now has insurance, a bank account, and even a website and business cards. As a single father of three, Ofelio knows that the business is his family’s lifeline, and his income still provides little more than essential needs. He combines tamale order drop-offs with school pick-ups and prepares tamales and family meals in the same kitchen.

If you ask Ofelio about his ideas for the future of his business, his eyes light up. He has many, like renting a commercial kitchen to increase production, purchasing a delivery vehicle, and hiring full-time help. Beyond the business, he’d love to take classes to improve his English and be able to provide quality childcare for his two youngest daughters. These kinds of investments are only possible with the help of a business loan. But Ofelio has been denied that help from banks, which deem his business too small and too much of a risk. Without access to capital, Ofelio has no means of moving his business—and his family—beyond just barely making it.

A federal bond program established under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 authorized the issuance of long-term bonds at low-interest rates to fund community development finance institutions (CDFIs), which in turn provide small loans to businesses like Ofelio’s. The program was supposed to operate from 2011 to 2014, but was held up in Congress for more than two years pending approval on how it should be run. The delay resulted in $2 billion less in loans to support entrepreneurs like Ofelio. Congress should have moved more quickly and the administration should have been a stronger advocate for the program to overcome the delays. Entrepreneurs in low-income communities are the bedrock of the workforce. Investing in them grows opportunity for all of us and enables more people to work their own way out of poverty and hunger.

Fostering micro-entrepreneurship is one critical piece of the 2014 Hunger Report’s jobs agenda—the first pivotal step toward reversing record hunger rates in America.  

Visit hungerreport.org to view more photos and data from Ofelio’s story and read more about the role that a jobs agenda plays in our four-part plan to end hunger in America. 

Derek Schwabe

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